ELORDE, Juan Nicholas
ERRAM, John Paul
TIONGSON, Juan Miguel
Head Coach: Norman Black
Team Manager: Paolo Trillo
Multi-titled coach Norman Black will be serving his last season for Ateneo and the Blue Eagles are determined to give him a glorious exit. They are also gunning for an incredible fifth straight UAAP crown, that would put the Loyola-based squad in the league record as having the second longest winning season, after UE’s seven (1965-1971).
Five Season 74 Eagles are no longer around for the defending champions, namely Bacon Austria, Bon Jovi Cipriano, Jeric Estrada, Kirk Long and Emman Monfort. Of the five, the most significant are Long and Monfort, who both were instrumental in last year’s championship run. Long delivered the outside bombs in several close games in 2011, while Monfort was Ateneo’s steadiest playmaker, who was also lethal from beyond the arc. Now, without the diminutive point guard from Iloilo, the Blue Eagles will rely on a couple of rookies to direct the offense for them. And without Long, sensational scorer Kiefer Ravena will have to work double time on offense.
Veteran Ryan Buenafe will be back this year for Ateneo, and he is expected to contribute largely in scoring, with the exit of Long. Two years ago, the former NCAA high school standout from San Sebastian made waves for the Blue Eagles, and even led the team in several victories. But Buenafe was an eye sore during the pre-season, averaging only 5 points and 2.3 rebounds in eight games of the Fil-Oil Cup. He needs to get back in shape fast and provide the badly needed offensive share from Ateneo’s wing players. At the point, two rookie guards from La Salle Zobel make their debut in the UAAP’s senior basketball division, namely Juan Nicholas Elorde and Isaac Lim. Both former Junior Archers were impressive in their high school days, and may be good enough to orchestrate the Eagles’ attacks this season. Also joining the five-peat seeking Eagles are former Blue Eaglet Kristoffer Porter, and former San Beda Red Cub and National Youth center Giboy Babilonia.
Three of Season 74’s best players are returning for the Blue and White battalion in 2012 and they will again spearhead Ateneo’s hold of its UAAP dynasty. Ravena, Greg Slaughter and Nico Salva are, without a doubt, the Blue Eagles’ main men again this season, as they provide a rock-solid triumvirate that just may be enough to sustain their championship run. All three led Ateneo to a third-place finish in the Fil-Oil Cup, with the 6’11” former Gilas slotman Slaughter collecting monstrous numbers of 18.5 points, 10.5 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game, while Salva and Ravena added averages of 10.4 and 9.7 markers respectively. Meanwhile, behemoths Justin Chua, Frank Golla and John Paul Erram are returning to make the Eagles the tallest team this season.
Season Outlook, Strengths and Weaknesses
Ateneo is on target for another title, especially with Black determined to leave the team after the season on a winning note. The Blue Eagles are still formidable, with a host of big men to rule the paint, especially with the vastly improved Slaughter, who is expected to dominate this year. Salva will still be effective with his remarkable perimeter game, while Ravena, Oping Sumalinog, Luiz Gonzaga and Buenafe will take care of the outside scoring. But the main weakness now will be in the point position, as Juami Tiongson will have big shoes to fill with the graduation of Monfort. He posted norms of merely 5.3 points and 2.7 assists in the Fil-Oil Cup. How quickly Elorde and Lim can adjust in college basketball will be crucial for the defending champions.
Coach Norman’s biggest weapon this year is his big frontline. The Eagles must take advantage of this by setting up their big guys to stamp their class in the shaded area. This will force the other teams to work harder on defense, and may just lose steam in the end game. Slaughter will be extremely difficult to contain in his final year of amateur hoops. And when the opponents go for the double team, Ravena and company must have their guns blazing. More contribution from the bench is needed especially from the guards and small forwards. Buenafe must get back his old form to balance Ateneo’s offense. And the point guards must keep their composure and play smart to be able to complete the puzzle for the Blue Eagles.
Preview: Eagles' drive for fiveBy Jude Roque | Yahoo! PH Sports – Thu, Jul 12, 2012 2:40 PM PHT
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